Knee Ligament Injuries
Patients suspecting a knee ligament injury should be evaluated by an orthopedist. Many ligament injuries occur in conjunction with injury to other parts of the knee. There are four ligaments in the knee that are prone to injury: The ACL, MCL, PCL, and LCL.
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) connects the thigh bone to the shin bone in the knee. It prevents the shin bone from sliding out in front of the thigh bone. ACL injuries are common, in fact, 95,000 people in the US get them every year. They are more common in women than men, and often occur during high-impact sports or when the knee is forced to stop suddenly after running or pivot.
ACL injuries often occur with other injuries to the knee, such as tears to the MCL and the shock-absorbing cartilage in the knee (lateral meniscus). Most ACL tears are seen in the middle of the ligament, or the ligament is pulled off the thigh bone. These injuries form a gap between the torn edges, and require surgery to make the knee more stable. Minor ACL tears may heal with rest and conservative treatment. For any ACL tear, physical rehabilitation will add to a successful recovery.
The medial collateral ligament (MCL) connects the thigh bone to the shin bone on the inside of the knee. The MCL keeps the knee from bending inward. MCL tears often happen while skiing, playing football, or during activities that involve quick twisting, bending or changing direction. A torn MCL is not as severe as an ACL injury, but it can be very painful.
Recovery can take several weeks to months, depending on the severity of the injury. Partial tears usually do not require surgery, but for severe MCL tears with ongoing instability, surgery is an option to repair or replace the MCL.
The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) connects the thigh bone to the shin bone in the knee and lies deep within the knee joint. Common causes of PCL injuries are direct blows to the flexed knee, such as the knee hitting the dashboard in a car accident or falling hard on the knee.
More severe PCL injuries may be treated surgically. Patients that do not improve stability during physical therapy or develop an increase in pain may also require surgery. PCL injuries often occur in combination with other knee injuries, such as cartilage/meniscus injuries, bone bruises, ACL tears, fractures, posterolateral injuries and collateral ligament injuries.
The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) connects the thigh bone to the fibula, the smaller bone of the lower leg on the lateral or outer side of the knee. The ligament helps keep the outer side of the knee joint stable. Injury can be a stretch, partial tear, or complete tear of the ligament. The LCL is usually injured by pressure or when the knee joint is pushed from the inside, which results in stress on the outside part of the joint. It often occurs when the knee is dislocated.
Conservative treatment such as ice, medication, a brace, and using crutches, followed by physical rehabilitation, are usually effective for healing a partial tear. For a complete tear, or when the tear is in combination with other injuries to the knee, surgery is often necessary.
The orthopaedic surgeons at Oakland Regional Hospital perform knee replacement and treat many knee injuries and conditions. If you are experiencing knee pain, discomfort, or a decrease in function or range of motion, click below to make an appointment for a consultation. Or, call the Appointment Hotline at (248) 423-8484.